TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: The Jacksonville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) has received an application for a Department of the Army permit pursuant to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. §1344) and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. §403) as described below:
APPLICANT: Sarasota County BOCC
2817 Cattlemen Road
Sarasota, FL 34232
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The M-8 Artificial Reef Site is located in the Gulf of
Mexico, offshore of Sarasota County, as displayed on NOAA Nautical chart Number 11424, dated January 2003, 18th addition. The site is square-shaped, with a dimension of 6,076 feet per side that encompasses an area of 847.5 acres. (One square nautical mile or 1.32 square statute mile). It's located 13.9 nautical miles at a bearing of 252° from New Pass and 15.3 nautical miles at a bearing of 267° from Big Pass.
Directions to the site are as follows: By vessel, travel 13.9 nautical miles at a bearing of 252° from New Pass or 15.3 nautical miles at a bearing of 267° from Big Pass.
LATITUDE & LONGITUDE: The proposed reef is listed in decimal minute format:
Center Lat: 27.209988° North; Long: -82.804236° West
NW Corner Lat: 27.218333° North; Long: -82.812500° West
NE Corner Lat: 27.218333° North; Long: -82.795833° West
SE Corner Lat: 27.201667° North; Long: -82.795833° West
SW Corner Lat: 27.201667° North; Long: -82.812500° West
Basic: Habitat Creation
Overall: Reauthorization to reinitiate deployments within an existing artificial reef site of approved materials to further enhance fisheries resources in order to provide additional marine life habitat, recreational fishing locations, and scuba diving sites off the coast of Sarasota County, Florida.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The existing reef is approximately 847 acres in the Gulf of Mexico with water depths ranging from 65 feet to 68 feet at its deepest point. A minimum of thirty-two and one half foot navigational clearance at Mean Low Water will be held. The majority of the ocean floor in this site is composed of a thick layer of terrigenous sand composed of silica and calcium carbonate based grains derived from limestone and marine organisms.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to reinitiate and continue deployments of concrete material, natural rock boulders, and pre-fabricated artificial reef modules within the existing boundaries of the existing M-8 artificial reef site, at a rate of 4 acres per year, for a 10 year period to enhance recreational fishing.
AVOIDANCE AND MINIMIZATION INFORMATION – The applicant has provided the following information in support of efforts to avoid and/or minimize impacts to the aquatic environment:
Prior to the placement of any material, the applicant would conduct a visual survey of the bottom and take core samples before selecting the exact location within the proposed site where the reef materials would be placed. The applicant would select sites that are devoid of submerged aquatic vegetation or corals, and where there are no natural rock outcrops or hard bottom formations. In order to ensure that the deployed materials remain in place within the authorized boundaries, the applicant agrees to deploy materials that weigh a minimum of 500 pounds. Furthermore, the applicant seeks to deploy only materials clean and free from asphalt, creosote, petroleum, other hydrocarbons and toxic residues, loose free floating material or other deleterious substances.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has provided the following explanation why compensatory mitigation should not be required:
The applicant does not propose impacts to submerged vegetation, macro algae, corals, or live hardbottom. Therefore, the project is not expected to adversely affect submerged aquatic resources. If successful, the project will provide hardbottom habitat for numerous fish and invertebrate species.
DEPTH, PROFILE & CLEARANCE: The depth at the project site is 65 feet mean lower low water. The existing minimum navigational clearance for M-8 Artificial Reef is 32.5 feet mean lower low water.
The artificial Reef was designated singe 1980. The deployment of types of material described above does not involve substantial ground-disturbing activity. The applicant stated that the weight of the modules is sufficient to anchor them at the deployment site. Furthermore, the Corps is not aware of any known historic properties within the permit area. By copy of this public notice, the Corps is providing information for review. Our final determination relative to historic resource impacts is subject to review by and coordination with the State Historic Preservation Officer and those federally recognized tribes with concerns in Florida and the Permit Area.
National Marine Fisheries Service Florida Statewide Programmatic Biological Opinion: On December 4, 2015, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) signed the Florida Statewide Programmatic Biological Opinion (SWPBO). The SWPBO is based on the NMFS review of the impacts associated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District's (USACE's) authorization of minor in-water activities throughout Florida. The SWPBO analyzes the effects from 11 categories of activities, including the deployment of artificial reefs, on sea turtles (loggerhead, leatherback, Kemp's ridley, hawksbill, and green); smalltooth sawfish; Johnson's seagrass; sturgeon (Gulf, shortnose, and Atlantic); corals (elkhom, staghom, boulder star, mountainous star, lobed star, rough cactus, and pillar); North Atlantic right whales; and designated critical habitat for Johnson's seagrass, smalltooth sawfish, Gulf sturgeon, loggerhead sea turtle, North Atlantic right whale, and elkhom and staghom corals in accordance with Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act. The Corps has determined that the proposed project falls within the scope of the SWPBO. The Corps will request concurrence with this determination with the Fish and Wildlife Service pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act by separate correspondence.
The Corps has determined that the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus). Since the proposal by the applicant is for in-water construction, potential impacts to the endangered West Indian manatee were evaluated using The Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, and the State of Florida Effect Determination Key for the Manatee in Florida, April 2013 (Key). Use of this Key resulted in the following sequential determination: ABCGNOP5 may affect, not likely to adversely affect. The proposed project neither involves dredging, nor increases watercraft access to the project site. Furthermore, the applicant elects to adhere to the Standard Manatee Conditions for In-Water Work, 2011. Therefore, according to the key, a may affect but is not likely to adversely affect determination is appropriate. By letter dated 25 April 2013, the FWS stated that for proposed in-water activities analyzed with the April 2013 version of the Manatee Key in which the Corps reaches a may affect, not likely to adversely affect determination with respect to the manatee and/or its designated critical habitat, the FWS concurs with the Corps determination in accordance with 50 CFR 402.14(b)1 and no further consultation with the FWS is required.
ESSENTIAL FISH HABITAT (EFH): This notice initiates consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service on EFH as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act 1996. The deployments would occur over 40 acres of marine bottom potentially utilized by various life stages of the following species covered within the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Plan: Shrimp; Reef Fish; Stone Crab; and, Coastal Migratory Pelagics. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or federally managed fisheries within the Gulf of Mexico. The proposed deployment areas support a bare bottom as described above. Our final determination relative to project impacts and the need for mitigation measures is subject to review by and coordination with the National Marine Fisheries Service.
NOTE: This public notice is being issued based on information furnished by the applicant. This information has not been verified or evaluated to ensure compliance with laws and regulation governing the regulatory program. The jurisdictional line has been verified by Corps personnel.
AUTHORIZATION FROM OTHER AGENCIES: Water Quality Certification may be required from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and/or one of the state Water Management Districts.
COMMENTS regarding the potential authorization of the work proposed should be submitted in writing to the attention of the District Engineer through the Tampa Permits Section, 10117 Princess Palm Avenue, Suite 120, Tampa, Florida 33610 within 21 days from the date of this notice.
The decision whether to issue or deny this permit application will be based on the information received from this public notice and the evaluation of the probable impact to the associated wetlands. This is based on an analysis of the applicant's avoidance and minimization efforts for the project, as well as the compensatory mitigation proposed.
QUESTIONS concerning this application should be directed to the project manager, Candice Wheelahan, in writing at the Tampa Permits Section, 10117 Princess Palm Avenue, Suite 120, Tampa, Florida 33610; by electronic mail at Candice.M.Wheelahan@usace.army.mil; by facsimile transmission at (813)769-7061; or, by telephone at (813)769-7064.
IMPACT ON NATURAL RESOURCES: Coordination with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Marine Fisheries Services, and other Federal, State, and local agencies, environmental groups, and concerned citizens generally yields pertinent environmental information that is instrumental in determining the impact the proposed action will have on the natural resources of the area.
EVALUATION: The decision whether to issue a permit will be based on an evaluation of the probable impact including cumulative impacts of the proposed activity on the public interest. That decision will reflect the national concern for both protection and utilization of important resources. The benefits, which reasonably may be expected to accrue from the proposal, must be balanced against its reasonably foreseeable detriments. All factors which may be relevant to the proposal will be considered including cumulative impacts thereof; among these are conservation, economics, esthetics, general environmental concerns, wetlands, historical properties, fish and wildlife values, flood hazards, floodplain values, land use, navigation, shoreline erosion and accretion, recreation, water supply and conservation, water quality, energy needs, safety, food, and fiber production, mineral needs, considerations of property ownership, and in general, the needs and welfare of the people. Evaluation of the impact of the activity on the public interest will also include application of the guidelines promulgated by the Administrator, EPA, under authority of Section 404(b) of the Clean Water Act or the criteria established under authority of Section 102(a) of the Marine Protection Research and Sanctuaries Act of 1972. A permit will be granted unless its issuance is found to be contrary to the public interest.
The US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) is soliciting comments from the public; Federal, State, and local agencies and officials; Indian Tribes; and other Interested parties in order to consider and evaluate the impacts of this proposed activity. Any comments received will be considered by the Corps to determine whether to issue, modify, condition, or deny a permit for this proposal. To make this determination, comments are used to assess impacts to endangered species, historic properties, water quality, general environmental effects, and the other public interest factors listed above. Comments are also used to determine the need for a public hearing and to determine the overall public interest of the proposed activity.
COASTAL ZONE MANAGEMENT CONSISTENCY: In Florida, the State approval constitutes compliance with the approved Coastal Zone Management Plan. In Puerto Rico, a Coastal Zone Management Consistency Concurrence is required from the Puerto Rico Planning Board. In the Virgin Islands, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources permit constitutes compliance with the Coastal Zone Management Plan.
REQUEST FOR PUBLIC HEARING: Any person may request a public hearing. The request must be submitted in writing to the District Engineer within the designated comment period of the notice and must state the specific reasons for requesting the public hearing.